Your carry-on is critical. It’s the bag that never leaves your side and holds everything you might need during a trip. Plus, on many airlines, it's the only bag that flies free. So, what exactly are the can’t-go-without essentials? Before you take off, make sure you’ve got these 10 must-have items in your carry-on.
1. Hand Sanitizer or Wet Wipes
The last thing you want is to turn up at your destination feeling sick. Ward off the germs and viruses by always carrying a mini sanitizer gel bottle in your carry-on. Airport bathrooms sometimes run out of soaps and airplane bathrooms are not always the cleanest. Did you ever spill your drink during a flight or accidentally stick your finger in the butter or jam as you clumsily attempted to eat your inflight meal? Having sanitizer or wet wipe on hand will keep you germ-free and help you out in a sticky situation.
2. Change of Clothes
Every time you check a bag, you’re putting your faith in a stranger that your luggage will end up where it’s supposed to. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out. Checked bags sometimes get misplaced or miss the connecting flight, leaving you stranded with hardly anything (except your carry on!) upon arrival. That’s why keeping a clean set of clothes in your carry-on is essential. Clean socks and underwear can work wonders after a long flight, and if you’ve got a fresh shirt and pair of pants — even better.
3. Water Bottle
This carry-on essential is also environmentally-friendly. Keeping a reusable water bottle with you during your travels helps keep you hydrated throughout. More and more airports are installing water fountains or refill stations in departure halls so you can fill your bottle after you pass through security. This is especially useful if you’re flying on a budget airline, most of which charge for all beverages. It’s also great if you have a layover and can fill your bottle for free instead of paying an exorbitant amount for a bottle of water in the airport.
4. Travel Pillow
A bulky travel pillow may not seem worth the precious space it takes up, but you’ll be thanking us once you’re on a long-haul or red-eye flight. If you’re worried about room, try the super thin albeit scientifically proven to help you sleep Trtl Travel Pillow. Another one we love (although packing slightly more bulk) is this infinity travel pillow. It allows for a cozy wrap-up anywhere and supports multiple sleeping positions.
5. A Pen
You’ll need it to complete a customs form on an international flight, fill out a visa-on-arrival form in your destination, or complete the crossword puzzle in the in-flight magazine. In a world where it seems like everything is digital, you’d actually be surprised how often a pen will come in handy when traveling.
6. A Shawl
Stay warm in over air-conditioned airplanes, airports, and buses by bringing your own clothing that can double as a blanket. If you’re traveling on the cheap, don’t expect budget airlines to dole out extra perks like pillows and blankets. Even on middle-of-the-road airlines, a blanket is only given upon request. Save yourself the hassle and bring a wide shawl, wrap, or sarong to help you cover up, stay warm and sleep comfortably.
7. Noise-Cancelling Headphones
Watch a movie or drift off to sleep in peace while listening to your favorite chill-out playlist without being disturbed by crying babies or conversations going on around you. Noise-canceling headphones are an absolute must. Sony’s WH1000XM3 are top of the line noise-cancelling headphones with attractive specs like uber-long battery life and smart-listening features. If earbuds are more your style or you’re not ready to drop $300-plus on a pair of headphones, check out Anker's SoundCore Liberty Neo true wireless headphones, which have no cords at all, and fit in your pocket.
8. In-Flight Entertainment
Have you ever been on a long-haul flight when your TV set just wasn’t working? I have, and it felt like torture. Many budget airlines don’t even have in-flight entertainment, even on international flights. Avoid feeling like you’ve been flying for eternity and bring your own amusement. Stockpile movies on your tablet or pre-download a season of your favorite series from Netflix. Buy a few of your favorite magazines or bring an old school book. There’s no better time for a page-turner than a 6-hour flight across the Atlantic.
9. Healthy Snacks
If airplane food doesn’t agree with you then you’re stuck without anything to eat until you touch down. Instead of holding out for a “decent meal” at your destination, pack some snacks to get you through. Unsalted nuts, dried fruit, biltong, apples or oranges keep your tummy full without the bloat.
10. A Power Bank
Your phone, tablet, or e-reader does you no good if the battery dies. Some airlines offer in-seat USB ports - others don’t. Nothing’s worse than a long flight with nothing to do, so make sure to keep a slim, light-weight power bank in your carry-on for emergency charge situations. The Anker PowerCore 10000 is one of the lightest, cheapest and fastest power banks on the market.